You have to admit that getting to experience the four seasons is one of the best things about living in the Burgh. We know it’s true. And we also know it’s a special time of year. Time to pick the perfect pumpkin, sip some seasonal beer, and refer to leaves as foliage instead of just leaves. Why? We’re not really sure. But we do know the fall foliage around here is spectacular.
And so are the farms and festivals, as well as the food, the outdoor activities, and the vibe you get when you stroll through the city in a sweater and scarf. So bust out your best autumn attire and start checking items off of this fall to-do list.
No one can deny that a bite into a crisp apple is one of the best sounds of fall. But everyone’s got a favorite (shall we say…an apple of their eye?). Whether you like Gala, Red Delicious, Fuji, or you’re one of those weirdos that likes Granny Smith, you can take your pick fresh from the source with apple picking at Simmons Farm in McMurray, Soergel Orchards in Wexford, Half Crown Hill Orchard in McDonald, or Triple B Farms in Monongahela. Jump high for the shiniest apple, or if you bring a friend (or date *hint, hint*), a ride on the shoulders gets the BEST apples.
It takes at least one festival to ring in fall. And nobody does a fall fest like Pittsburgh. If you fail to find the perfect apple at any of the U-Picks, head up north to the annual Franklin Apple Fest for a Honeycrisp the size of a baby or Hickory Apple Festival for all that and a pancake breakfast (with plenty of apple butter). If you want variety, head to Seven Springs any weekend in October for an Autumnfest weekend of beer, more beer, chili, and a kids Halloween fest. Once you’re so full of fall treats you feel half dead, saunter to Mr. Smalls in Millvale for Pittsburgh Zombie Fest.
You can actually rack up the miles just by walking corn mazes this fall (if you don’t cheat). Get active and get lost in the Giant Living Maze of Schramm Farms in Jeannette, a tricky one at Shenot Farm in Wexford, a big (four-acre) and little (two-acre) at Simmons Farm in McMurray, or the epic and intricate tradition of Gearhard Farms Annual Corn Maze in Murrysville. Challenge your friends – loser carries the pumpkins.
This time of year is perfect for running – crisp mornings and no humidity to speak of. That means when you cross the finish line, it won’t feel like you’re burning alive. Well, maybe some heartburn if you’re running the Donut Dash, a two-mile run separated by the epic cramming of half a dozen donuts. Oh, and don’t forget that fall means the Penguins are back (-to-back), run to Mario at the finish line at the Pittsburgh Penguins 6.6k. And once you’ve conditioned for the season, take on the EQT Pittsburgh 10 Miler in November.
Back to the foliage business. Those leaves truly are a wonder when they become a sea of orange, yellow, and red. And if you’re looking to ogle at some trees, a woodsy trail seems like the best place to go for a hike. Snap a million pictures at tree-lined Lake Arthur in Moraine State Park. Add a little blue to the fall scenery with a jaunt down Meadow Run Trail to Cucumber Falls in Ohiopyle. Or if you’re looking for a real challenge – the type of leafy, muddy, rocky goodness hikers dream about – take the 35.7 miles of the Rachel Carson Trail for the ultimate fall trek.
Biking is also a dream in fall (aside from that terrifying moment of trying to stop on wet leaves). Whizzing by on your 10-speed or trail bike creates the ultimate autumn montage. Plus, come September, you can breathe in the cool air without swallowing so many bugs. When you’re eager to take fall by two wheels, ride the Montour Trail, spanning 46 miles over crushed limestone, wooden bridges, and dark tunnels from Moon to Clairton. For your road bike, swing around the North Park Lake Loop for serious views from your designated, paved bike lane. But if you yawned reading those first two, take your muddy mountain bike to the (never crowded) single-track trails at Riverview Park in the North Side.
You haven’t truly sprinted until you find yourself scared to tears in one of Pittsburgh’s infamous haunted houses. Link arms or hold on to the sleeves of your crew (buddy system) to tour the huge haunts of Hundred Acres Manor in Bethel Park or Demon House in Monongahela. If you want to sleep with the light on for the remainder of fall, creep through the “scariest haunted house in America” at ScareHouse in Morningside. Or for the ultimate thrill ride, make a trip to Kennywood for Phantom Fright Nights.
If you can’t dig the down and dirty of a full-blown hike, ease off on a “nature walk” – it’s got the same great taste! Though you won’t need hiking boots, walking through the fall foliage is an easy activity for anyone and provides some stellar photo ops. Make for Fall Run Park in Shaler, an easy hike with a few stairs (the waterfall is beautiful in the fall). Want a “big picture” view of fall? Road trip to Cook Forest State Park and climb the 87.5-foot tall fire tower to see spectacular colors for miles around. And you already know McConnells Mill State Park brings the fall hard.
If you consider yourself a cowboy/cowgirl at heart (or grew up in WashPa), you’ll know that riding horseback is incredibly freeing. It’s also a killer workout…as in muscles you didn’t know you had will be sore for half the week. But when you’re ready for a fall adventure, throw on your flannel and some cowboy boots to saddle up at Rolling Hills Ranch in Bridgeville or Crooked Creek Horse Park in Ford City.
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